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Time moves on…

January 21, 2009


…social reality (whatever in a worldview is construed as ‘the real world’) is not only the cause of the outlook or standpoint of those who inhabit it (thus culture creates outlooks); paradoxically, their social perception of reality is the cause of a people’s world or culture itself (thus outlooks create cultures).

–James McClendon citing the work of Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann, Social Construction of Reality (1966)

Time moves on and dry bones do take on flesh.  History provides the Context for interpreting the significance of Events.  The ability to interpret the significance of yesterday’s Event hinges on the ability to set a million interrelated events, characters and narratives into their appropriate historical context.  And to see that our view and interpretation of yesterday’s Event is subjective–refracted through a lens that is an inseparable part of the way we see the world.  As Peter Berger observes, the way we see and interpret history is profoundly shaped by our social reality.  History is an embodied flow of power interests and narratives.  The way one imagines and talks about “the real world” is profoundly shaped by ones standpoint within the flow of history.

So an Event happened yesterday.  A re-ordering of power interests and narratives amidst a litany of pomp and ceremony.  A presidential aleqm5iiit-llujpll58zwizkw2sukpovainauguration–the first African-American president in the history of this nation.  A politcal persona who speaks about and embodies a new political reality–a politics of inclusion…of deconstruction…of synthesis.  A million witnesses drawn to the mall and a world watching in awe of a redemptive shift.

Time moves on and redemption happens within history.  Incarnation.  The dry bones of slavery, bigotry and racism rattle and cry out  in the valley of shame.  In the valley of guilt.  In the valley of death.  The bones cry out for redemption–for a new day.  A new day in which the ruach of God might breathe into the desolate valley filled with the stench of injustice and oppression–death.  A new day in which the Spirit might breathe into these dry bones so that they might live again.

Dry bones do not drop out of the sky.  Events in history produce the context for flesh, dreams and hope to be eaten off the bone in dark places of injustice.  And yet if we look down on the valley of dry bones from our hillside mansions, it is possible to look down in self-righteous judgment.  As if we live in history from some position of moral superiority.  As if truth has nothing to do with history.  As if Truth is all about disembodied words.  Text.  Text which we use and abuse to legitimate our identities and positions of power.

Text which we use to construct Narratives which appease our consciences and insure us that we won’t be Left Behind.  Texts we use to create Narratives in which words like salvation and redemption have little to do with bodily life, social context–with history.  Texts and Narratives that help us avoid the hard work of facing our own dry bones.  Narratives that recuse our collective guilt, and release us from any responsibility to work for redemption within history.

We prefer a narrative of truth that allows us to experience “God” in private ways.  Salvation is a private experience.  An experience which is downloaded into our personal lives.  Meanwhile, we go on with our physical lives and can’t understand why the valley of dry bones just cannot get its act together.  The dry bones of broken families, the dry bones of poverty, the dry bones of uninitiated young males from the “other side of the tracks” who break into sandwich shops.

With good motives, we try to put these dry bones together, to fix the wasteland of rattling bones.  Sometimes we set up government programs in the valley of dry bones.  Others would like to just offer tax cuts to those living on the hillside and believe that the benefits will trickle down into the valley.  Others–with religious motives (and often good intentions)–bring Text into these places of barrenness.  But what is the social reality from which Text interacts with body?  These bones are weary of Text without Incarnation.

Text must be allowed to deconstruct our illusions of how things are in the “real world.”  Yet, how often is Text used to avoid the painful process of death and rebirth–transformation?  We prefer to live instead with the illusion that we are good people.  That we are not dry bones…  We are the people who have always had flesh…

nm_crowd_090120_ssv2History matters.  Slavery happened.  Slavery impacted the African-American community in lasting ways.  It is still a part of their story and their experience.  It is a part of our story–our experience.  This part of our story continues to produce dry bones.  Auction block, cotton field, sexual exploitation–these are the historical realities that placed a dehumanizing yoke on our brothers and sisters.  The psychic and social wounds are a part of the subsoil in the valley of dry bones.  White privilege is built on the blood, sweat and tears found in this soil.  This is the wound.  Yesterday was a part of the healing.

A disproportionate percent of abortions that happen take place in the African-American community.  The Event of yesterday marks a shift in the narrative which is about the healing of this wound.  The significance of the Event portends a deeper healing in the wound of male-female relations (family structure) within the African-American community.  Deeper than any law that could be passed on the abortion issue.  The healing goes deeper than words or laws as an African-American family–Barack, Michelle, Malia, Sasha and Mrs. Robinson–take up residence in the White House.

Time moves on and redemption happens in history.  Dry bones are re-assembled, held together by sinews and flesh.  Dry bones in the psyche of young African-American males who lack a sense of that there is a legitimate place for them at the table.  A place where they can express their own voice with pride and dignity.  Because Obama embodies this, a healing shift has happened in the African-American story–in the American story.

Time moves on and redemption happens in history.  The redemption of past wrongs is a good thing.  An African-American president is part of the healing of history.  It is part of the healing no matter what your individual political perspective.  It is part of the healing because it is flesh being put to dry bones.  It is the inclusion of the other.  It is the peaceful revolution of hope in which those who have been trampled on by history now come to the table of privilege.

Yesterday a few dry bones took on flesh.  These are the days of Ezekiel.

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